RECALLING THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BHARAT RATNA MOKSHAGUNDAM VISVESVARAYA
Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya (1861-1962)
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of people. The broad discipline of engineering encompasses a range of more specialized sub-disciplines, each with a more specific emphasis on certain fields of application and particular areas of technology.
In India, Engineer's day is celebrated on September 15 every year. Happily this day also happens to coincide with the Birthday of MOKSHAGUNDAM VISVESVARAYA who was born in 1861. He was a man of many splendours. He was an outstanding engineer, scholar, statesman and served with unsurpassed distinction as the Diwan of Mysore from 1912 to 1919. Visvesvaraya is often hailed as the architect of the all-round development of Karnataka in the 20th Century from 1910 to 1960. Among his most successful projects were the design and construction of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam and its adjoining Brindavan Gardens, modernization of the Bhadravati Iron and Steel Works, setting up of the Mysore Sandalwood Oil Factory and the founding of the Bank of Mysore. Internationally recognised for his genius in harnessing water resources, he was responsible for successful design and construction of several river dams, bridges and implementing irrigation and drinking water schemes all over India in the decade immediately after our independence from 1950 to 1960.
2011 happens to be the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Visvesvaraya in 1861. This Anniversary is being celebrated on a grand scale in Karnataka State and elsewhere in India. Institutes of Technical Education, Industrial Bodies and Organizations, Commercial Banks, Nationalized Banks, the State Governments and the Government of India have joined hands to pay a fitting tribute to Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, on the occasion of his 150th Birth Anniversary.
As a part of the 150th Birthday Celebrations, his birth place in Muddenahalli in Chikkaballapur district is getting a facelift, his old house there has been converted into a well-equipped Museum. The State Bank of Mysore’s Personal Pass Book of Sir Visvesvaraya, his Civil Engineering Degree Certificate, the Doctrate Certificate he received from Patna University, a 1923 Typewriter used by him and a Dictionary that was gifted to him as a memento in 1881 by Charles Watters, the then Principal of Central College of Engineering in Poona, are all displayed in this museum.
More importantly, Visvesvaraya’s dream of making use of cost-effective modern technology for accelerated rural development is getting fulfilled and realised in more senses than one.
The Union Government, has announced several new Projects and Programmes to be launched on the birthday of Visvesvarya on September 15, 2011. These include a National Skill Development Programme, an Entrepreneurship Development Programme, a Rural Development & Self-Employment Training Institute (Rudiset), Micro And Medium Enterprises Awareness Programmes as well as a Rural BPO.
An outstanding-engineer, a meticulous administrator, a far-seeing statesman Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya was a visionary and an architect of planning in India. He was born on 15th September 1860 at Muddenahalli village in an orthodox lower middle class Brahmin family in Kolar district in Mysore State. Mokshagundam is a village in Kurnool District in Andhra Pradesh from where his ancestors moved to Mysore state about 300 years ago. The prefix Mokshagundam is traceable to this fact of his ancestry in Andhra Pradesh. His father, Srinivasa Sastri was a Sanskrit Scholar and an authority on Hindu scriptures. He was also an exponent of Ayurveda. His mother, Venkachamma had a powerful influence in moulding Visvesvaraya’s life and career. His father died in 1876 when he was 16. He had to face many difficulties. He had no house to live in and no money to meet his expenses. Only two things he had in plenty; courage and determination. His maternal uncle Ramiah helped him to get into Central College, Bangalore. He passed the B.A. Degree Examination from that college in 1880 with distinction.
Rangacharalu the Dewan of Mysore offered Visvesvaraya a Mysore government scholarship for further studies in Engineering College, Poona. He completed the course again with distinction in 1883. In 1884, he joined the PWD of the Government of Bombay as an Assistant Engineer. He retired of his own accord, as Superintending Engineer in 1908.
Pandit Nehru with Visvesvaraya
Visvesvaraya’s career in the PWD Department in Bombay Presidency was most distinguished. He was associated with the design, construction or administration of a large number of irrigation schemes in the Bombay Presidency. He played a prominent part in drawing up suitable water supply schemes of several important cities like Dhulia in Khandesh and Sukkur in Sind. During this period, he also designed a new system of automatic waste water flood gates which were installed at Lake Fife which is the Head Works of the Mutha Canal, the source of water supply to Poona city and Cantonment. Gates of the same pattern were subsequently erected on the Rigers Dam in Gwalior and on the Krishnarajasagara Dam across the Cauvery near Mysore. THE DESIGN OF THESE AUTOMATIC GATES WON FOR HIM INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION. HE DEVELOPED A NEW SYSTEM OF IRRIGATION KNOWN AS THE BLOCK SYSTEM IN ORDER TO ENSURE THE ECONOMICAL USE OF CANAL WATERS. The Indian Irrigation Commission of 1901-1903 commended the Block System recommended by Dr. M. Visvesvaraya for adoption in the drought prone areas of the Deccan. HIS CAREER AS AN ENGINEER IN THE PWD DEPARTMENT WAS MARKED BY GREAT FERTILITY OF MIND TIRELESS ENERGY AND AN UNSURPASSED SENSE OF PUBLIC DUTY. ON THE SOCIAL FRONT HE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR STARTING THE DECCAN CLUB AT POONA WITH THE HELP OF HIS FRIENDS, LIKE GOPALA KRISHNA GOKALE, BAL GANGADHAR TILAK AND MAHADEV GOVINDA RANADE--ALL LEADERS OF NATIONAL EMINENCE.
Soon after seeking voluntary retirement from the PWD in the Government of Bombay in 1908, Visvesvaraya went on a world tour. While in Italy, he received an urgent cable from the Nizam's Government requesting him to prepare a scheme to stem the flood havoc caused by the rivers Moosi and Easi in Hyderabad. He undertook a comprehensive investigation of the problems involved soon after returning to India and suggested the construction of two dams across the rivers, which were later named Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar lakes. He became Chief Engineer in Mysore State in November 1909 and continued in that position till he became Dewan of Mysore in December 1912. During this term of office he designed and constructed the greater part of a masonary dam across the Cauvery River with a storage capacity of about 48355 million cubic feet, forming the reservoir now know as the Krishnarajasagara. This reservoir was the largest in India ever constructed till that date.
As Dewan of Mysore for seven years (1912-1919) he directed all his energies to the progress of general and technical education and to the acceleration of the pace of industrial development in the old Mysore State. He founded the University of Mysore in 1916 - the first University to be established in a princely state. He established a number of industries including the Mysore Iron and Steel Works at Bhadravati, the Sandalwood Soap Factory etc. He expanded and modernised the Railway System in Mysore state. He established the Bank of Mysore in 1913. He established public libraries in major cities. He brought in new measures for the Improvement of administrative efficiency which included a new system of 'efficiency audit'. He effected constitutional and legislative reforms. He introduced new measures for rural reconstruction. In more senses than one, the solid foundation of modern Karnataka were well and truly laid by Dr. M. Visvesvaraya.
In 1925, Visvesvaraya served as Chairman of the Indian Economic Enquiry Committee appointed by the Government of India. He became a Member of the Board of Directors of Tata Iron and Steel Company in 1927 and served in that capacity for 28 years till 1955. He was associated with various financial, industrial and educational committees appointed by several state governments and Government of India from time to time.
He founded the All India Manufacturers' Organisation (AIMO) in 1941 and functioned as its Founder President for 12 years from 1941 to 1953. Dr. M. Visvesvaraya, as its Founder President gave the inspiring message of 'Prosperity Through Industry' to the nation. Apart from several technical reports, his important publications were the following: a) 'Reconstructing India' (1920), b) 'Planned Economy for India' (1934), c) 'Memories of my working life' (1952). He also wrote several pamphlets on industries issued through the All India Manufacturers' Association, Bombay, such as: 1. 'Prosperity through Industry', 2. 'District Industrialisation Drive', 3. 'Village Industrialisation' 4. 'Development of Heavy Industries in India'.
Visvesvaraya was obsessed with the dream of an industrialised India, a vision he shared with Jameshedji Tata. Visvesvaraya and Mahatma Gandhi were great friends and were in intimate correspondence with each other. Though they differed widely on industrial matters, yet Gandhiji had a high regard for him. Gandhiji wrote to him: "In spite of the strength of my convictions I entertain a great regard for your fine abilities and love of the country, and that shall be unabated whether I have the good fortune to secure your cooperation or face your honest opposition".
When the Bharata Ratna, the highest title of honour, was to be awarded to him in 1955, he sent word to Jawaharlal Nehru: "If you feel that by giving this title I will praise your Government, you will be disappointed I am a fact finding man". Nehru appreciated his view and requested him to accept the Award. Is it not a matter of shame for all of us that such a thing cannot happen in the India of today where all governments compete with one another in making a very subtle distinction between freedom of speech and freedom after speech? Shameless and servile flattery of thieves, dacoits, robbers, looters, illicit distillers, land grabbers—in short UPA II Union Ministers---has become the Order of the Day!!
Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya passed away peacefully on the 14th of April 1962. Thus born during the Viceroyalty of Lord Canning in 1860, he passed away during the Prime Ministership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. His was a long and many splendoured life, marked by timeless and magnificent achievements. Dr. M. Visvesvaraya was one of those rare human beings who practised in personal life what he preached in public. The three signal qualities which made him what he was were courage, industry and faith: dauntless courage, unflagging industry, an indomitable faith which was part of his fibre - these were the levers with which he moved the world. His exquisite urbanity was one of his most conspicuous graces. I would like to allude to that grave, old world courtesy, which gave so much distinction to his private life: for his sweetness of manner went far beyond demeanour. Success left him calm, he had had so much of it; nor did failures greatly depress him. The next morning found him once more facing the world with serene and undaunted brow.
15th Sep 1960
Dr. M.Visvesvaraya - Birth Centenary
Awards and Honours
The Bharat Ratna medal
Visvesvaraya was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1911. In 1915, while he was the Diwan of Mysore, Visvesvaraya was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) by the British for his myriad contributions to the public good. After India attained independence, Sir M. Visvesvaraya was given the nation's highest honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1955.
The Knight Commander of The Indian Empire medal
Sir M.V. was honoured with honorary membership of the international Institution of Civil Engineers (based in London) and a fellowship of the Indian Institute of Science (based in Bangalore). He was awarded several honorary doctoral degrees like D.Sc., LL.D., D.Litt. from eight universities in India. He was president of the 1923 Session of the Indian Science Congress. Sir M.V. was awarded honorary Membership of London Institution of Civil Engineers for an unbroken 50 years.
"Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya bequeathed a pure standard of life, a record of lofty ambition for the public good as he understood it, a monument of life-long labour. Such lives speak for themselves, they need no special statues or monuments, they face the future with the confidence of high purpose and noble endeavour. They bid us to be conscious of our trust, mindful of our duty, scornful of opposition to principle and faith. They summon us to account for time and opportunity; they embody an inspiring tradition. They are time-defying milestones in the life of a nation".